Connect with us

Theme Parks & Themed Entertainment

La Twilight Zone Tour De Toons?

The story of the French version of the Tower of Terror could very well be featured in its very own episode of Rod Sterling’s “The Twilight Zone”, since it features so many surprises, dark corners and 11th hour twists that even folks in those Paris offices don’t know exactly what happened…



Hey there hi there ho there gang,

So, who actually shed a tear whilst reading Jim’s amazing description of the Toon area planned for Disney-MGM?

That whimsical Sunset Boulevard with its trolley line leading to the “Maroon Studios” area? The “Roller Coaster Rabbit” coaster? The ToonTown trolley simulator ride? All these rides (and more) left quite a few Imagineers sore, and Disney fans bitter about WDI not going forth with rendering a real for real wacky and crazy Toon studios area!

Of course we are all happy in the end all this gave way to another amazing Disney masterpiece as “the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”, and now that also Disney’s California Adventure is seeing the day to day progress in the rising of their brand new version of this Florida favorite freefall ride, by 2004 Disneyland Resort guests will “drop by” this Spanish architecture Hollywood hotel and get a whole new twist of the fears and mysteries of “the twilight zone”.

Also Tokyo Disney Sea’s park model (which was on display in TDL up until before park opening) featured this Hollywood Tower Hotel as a prominent feature of the American water front area, a district of the park which, according to many, had been designed majorly with the goal of providing a good enough setting for this future attraction…which kind of made all Disney fans say “there we have it again; Disney is placing the Tower of Terror (TOT) as a staple ride in all its theme parks, much like the salty old Pirates or the Grimm Grinning Ghosts present in the four Disney Corners of the world”.

But no sign of this amazing freefall ride was ever seen for the new Paris Studios, sure it was always a strong rumor from the day the Park project was presented (after all in Florida the TOT is in the studios theme park), but when it came to thrills the Imagineers decided to have their brand new Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster send guests in an amazing light show…instead of having thunder strike them on an elevator.

Why for? Well, my friends, the story of the French version of the Tower of Terror could very well be featured in its very own episode of Rod Sterling’s “Twilight Zone”, since it features so many surprises, dark corners and 11th hour twists even folks in those Paris offices don’t know exactly what happened…and what will happen by the episodes ending!

All this majorly because DLP-I /SETEMO (the WDI division situated in the Paris offices actually developing the French resort) had other plans for their brand new Studio’s Park and the freefall elevator idea behind the Tower of Terror… they actually didn’t want the Twilight Zone to enter into France!

Sounds weird right? Well let’s start from the beginning; as most of you should know the European Imagineers actually had a limited budget for their new theme park (reportedly slightly less then 600 Million US $), therefore they voluntarily designed the “skeleton of a park”, devising an elaborate plan which divided the park in four expansion phases; the opening, a major expansion with a new area and a few rides in the existing park, night time entertainment area (i.e. some lagoon and a hub for some form of Fantasmic or firework show) and finally a real working studio area.

The “circular layout” of the park would have meant that guests could have ventured on from the Backlot into the real studios; the tram tour station would have been relocated here and performed the “outside top perimeter” of the park, having therefore always on it’s inner side sets and working soundstages (which would have been added in the expansion phases). This idea would have finally allowed for some sense in the backlot’s story line…since this would have been the area SFX and stunts would be trained, before venturing into the actual working studio!

On the other side of the park the Animation courtyard would have served as the entrance point to that very idea Imagineering had cooked up more than 10 years before; the “Toon studios concept”.

Yes, my friends, you read it right; DLP-I was seriously considering elaborating that old Toon Studios idea and crossing it with the Disneyland ToonTown in order to provide a brand new area of the park for kids of all ages to enjoy.

Walt Disney Studios guests would have seen this area divided into two districts: the downtown area featuring shopping and ride opportunities and the studios area featuring soundstages and wacky Toon rides. The actually story line for this being that Toons actually shot their movies here in the Walt Disney studios therefore they needed both soundstages and sets and a commercial area where to live and do their Toon shopping.

Walt Disney Studios guests would have found themselves much in the same situation as Eddie Valiant in the Roger Rabbit movie; the actual soundstages would have been interactive areas themed to the Maroon Studios warehouses, with crashing props, and all sorts of Toon gags performed, also in this area some sort of “Benny the Cab” dark ride would have been featured. Most discussions about this ride claim that it would have been a Wild Mouse ride through a Toon movie shooting…making it sound a lot like a cross Between Disneyland’s’ Car Toon Spin and that never built Roller Coaster Rabbit ride!

But the real excitement was to be found in the Downtown part of Toon Studios; here guests would have seen how Toons actually live, shop and eat visiting the area’s signature “ACME gag Store”, “Toon Dinner” and ventured into the “Toon Tower Hotel”.

Yes, my friends, you got that last line right (though the name has changed in countless versions) The Walt Disney Studios design team hoped to use the Florida freefall ride technology and redress it to a Toon hotel setting.

Guests would have been right in the center of the Toon Studios Downtown area this completely wacky building, with no straight lines and with red bricks all different in size providing that “Toonish look” (one version proposed by a few Imagineers placed even Eyes on the building but Tom Morris- DLRP head Imagineer reportedly said “now let’s not exaggerate ok”).

On its facade (much like in Florida) the “Toon Tower Hotel” name emblazing the building, and all sort of sounds and gags would have been featured in the buildings cue!

Want an Idea? Well, as guests ventured through the hotel’s queue even before entering the lobby, they would have wound through this Toon garden with tilted plants and even a fountain which featured water “going up” (like in that gag prop which you sometimes can find of the glass which fills the bottle). Even more interactive where the “sound gags” proposed for this cue: much like in Anaheim’s Indy ride guests in the cue could have pressed and touched all sorts of Toonish gags on the level of Toon-holes (featuring Goofy’s trademark scream), electric doors (like in Anaheim’s ToonTown) and many other gags.

As guests finally entered the ToonTower Hotel lobby they would have been greeted by the sign “Toon Tower Hotel; the home of the stars” (an in-joke to the “Hollywood home of the stars” phrase) and a video would be shown of all Disney’s (plus a few more) Toon stars relaxing and enjoying this Luxurious hotel where the Toons supposedly stayed whilst shooting their best gags.

The video would have ended with a Toon bellhop saying “now that your room is ready we invite you to step into the elevator whilst we escort you to your room”. Obviously Imagineering had a whole twist to all this video (and the room in which it was shown); guests would have noticed that the windows now presented the outside view of a busy bustling ToonTown (much like in the Roger Rabbit movie) thanks to some rear projection trick, also the video would have featured al sorts of gags and strange sounds happening in the background: picture a cross between Muppet vision 3-D and the Honey I shrunk the Audience waiting room video and you get the idea…Toon madness at it’s best!

As guests entered this lift supposedly to get to their rooms (and hopefully see some Toon stars as presented in the brochure) they would have had this amazing “deja-vu” since the elevator would have featured a terrible resemblance to that lift controlled by Droopy in the Roger Rabbit movie!

Using the same audio track from the movie Droopy’s voice would have said (via on board speaker) once the doors closed “hold on sir” and the lift would have started its climb up.

As the doors opened guests would have seen this bustling corridor full of many Toon stars making the hotel waiters (the unmistakable Mary Poppins penguins) run from one door to the other…whilst Toon madness would have been seen in the hotel!

Droopy’s voice would have then said “I’m sorry sir wrong floor” and the doors would have closed for the lift to climb up…only to open a few floors higher to reveal this amazing room with a view of the whole Toon studios.

Guests would have then had a few seconds to realize that the actual room had its walls completely absent and that therefore (thanks to a clever illusions devised by DLP-I) they where going to fall exactly like Eddie in the Hotel scene in ToonTown…

…And there you would go down whilst the inner walls of the drop shaft would have featured this amazing projection of the Toon skyline during your descent; as in Florida there was the possibility of modifying the drop sequence at the Imagineers’ wish…and as in Florida the finale of the ride would have featured a movie: only this time we would have seen that the reason of our continuous drops was that (in pure Toon style) the bottom of our drop featured a bouncing carpet (tada…. incredibly clever if you ask me)…and the final effect shown would have been of stars right over the passengers heads…in pure Toon style!

Sounds like a cool ride? A sure hit with guests of all ages and a great way to update the Tower of Terror ride with a new theme, most of all it would have served as a good reason to finally have some sort of ToonTown area in the Paris resort (ToonTown was at first to be part of a Euro Disneyland Expansion but the financial problems lead to it’s indefinite red lighting).

Imagineering, in order to cut costs and increase capacity even decided to place 3 shafts instead of 2 and forget that horizontal movement (AKA “5th Dimension room) in order to have a more reasonable budget, Disney studio’s planners also voluntarily cut much of the kid oriented rides and theming, as well as any “really big” shop from the park’s opening phase in order to have the necessary funding for this Toon Studios.

Euro Disney SCA (the company actually owning the Paris resort) management was reportedly impressed with the ride’s potential; here was a ride which could be remembered as the most wacky Toon ride on the planet, and as part of the expansion it had the potential to do what Space Mountain had done to Disneyland in 1995… i.e. re-market the park and make teenagers wet there appetite to ride this “Toon Tower”.

Most of all what Euro Disney SCA management realized was that with this new area, and it’s trade mark ride, would heavily improve what has been the sore spot of Euro Disney from day 1: people per capita spending on in-park food and merchandise! After all who wouldn’t spend tens of Euros on Toon gadgets, toys and gizmos…after all Anaheim’s “ACME warehouse” was the number 2 shop after the emporium. Also this expansion area could feature amazing eating possibilities…who wouldn’t love to eat in eateries filled with all sorts of Toon gags and props?

During those 1999 meetings the hopes were really high for Walt Disney Studios to succeed and have a great future ahead, this was the park that – with a small budget – could provide the necessary relief for Euro Disney; and could soon expand into a great second gate.

…then Disney’s California Adventure results proved below expectations and messed up most of the WDS expansion plans!

But what has DCA to do with Paris? I hear you say! Well Once it was obvious that DCA desperately needed some sort of Thrill ride to boost it’s marketing potential Disneyland management kind of went “hey, the folks in Paris have redesigned the Tower of Terror technology increasing its capacity, reducing its costs and avoiding that (which anyway never really worked as we planned) 5th Dimension room why not use that already designed project?”

And within a few minutes (and a few intercontinental phone calls) latter Barry Braverman and his design team were redesigning the exterior fagade of “Their Tower” to fit better into the California theme (David Fisher was assigned to the interior show and is reportedly doing wonders with the ride considering the limits he had been given).

Obviously all this left Euro Disney in a awkward position, as “the Accountaneers” were now pressing to cancel all Toon studio expansion plans (with it’s tower) and save hundreds of Million of Dollars by simply using the same ride being constructed in DCA! Corporate directives directly from Burbank and Glendale therefore made Paris imaginers redesign the area opposite Cinemagique into “La Terrase”, an outdoor food court designed in the same style used in California’s TOT (and WDS’s Front lot) and right up there on the area’s main gate the “HTH” (Hollywood Tower Hotel) logo in guests plain view.

With this smart move management believed that guests would understand that the Tower would one day come in that area, and thanks to it’s style, a duplicate of the California one would have been the obvious choice. Also to fix the “lack of kid attractions” Tokyo’s Mermaid lagoon area was believed to represent a good answer to both the “indoor area problem” (providing shelter in Paris’ inclement weather) and a good substitute to the Toon Studios.

More to this Disney has made quit a few hints for this obvious during the whole course of the summer when Disney fans watched a strange building, designed in the same style as “La Terrase” be erected next to Armageddon, only to prove a restroom facility (now AKA “Toilets of Terror”), and as this wasn’t enough during a French program about the making of the studios an Imagineer was interviewed and right behind him was this giant map of the studios; with a huge building creating the same shadow of the TOT, in that empty area behind “La Terrase”.

The only real problem is that Paris management realized that this Toon Studios idea was one of those Imagineering masterpieces which needed to be built (Jay Rassulo, Euro Disney’s CEO, is reportedly a major Imagineering fan himself – one of his first goals was to refurbish the park to 1992 standards), more to this they realized that any shop or restaurant themed to this area could make millions (and Disney, whether in the USA, France or Japan, cannot resist this) and therefore couldn’t give up so easily on the Toon Studios idea!

So guess what gang: This X-mas season, the area reportedly marked for the Twilight zone Tower of Terror will be dressed as “Mickey’s secret Garden” a sort of “Alice’s curious labyrinth” (which is a beloved attraction in the Disneyland park next door) a botanical garden only with Mickey in the leading role, making it really difficult for Disney management to construct the California and French tower simultaneously (Anaheim’s version is plainly in vertical construction), probably hinting to Euro Disney management trying to “buy some time” for thinking about which moves must be taken in order to go forth with the Walt Disney Studio’s expansion plans.

On my part I would at least wait until after those 4 new hotels in the “Val de France” owned and operated by outside companies but on Disney property open and allow for 1.600 new hotel rooms to be available for guests willing to spend a few days in Europe’s leading tourist destination…. only then will Euro Disney management be actually able to evaluate the actual demand for a major studio expansion.

Ttfn – ta-ta for now!

Andrea Monti

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Evolution and History of Mickey’s ToonTown



Disneyland in Anaheim, California, holds a special place in the hearts of Disney fans worldwide, I mean heck, it’s where the magic began after all.  Over the years it’s become a place that people visit in search of memorable experiences. One fan favorite area of the park is Mickey’s Toontown, a unique land that lets guests step right into the colorful, “Toony” world of Disney animation. With the recent reimagining of the land and the introduction of Micky and Minnies Runaway Railway, have you ever wondered how this land came to be?

There is a fascinating backstory of how Mickey’s Toontown came into existence. It’s a tale of strategic vision, the influence of Disney executives, and a commitment to meeting the needs of Disney’s valued guests.

The Beginning: Mickey’s Birthdayland

The story of Mickey’s Toontown starts with Mickey’s Birthdayland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Opened in 1988 to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday, this temporary attraction was met with such overwhelming popularity that it inspired Disney executives to think bigger. The idea was to create a permanent, immersive land where guests could step into the animated world of Mickey Mouse and his friends.

In the early ’90s, Disneyland was in need of a refresh. Michael Eisner, the visionary leader of The Walt Disney Company at the time, had an audacious idea: create a brand-new land in Disneyland that would celebrate Disney characters in a whole new way. This was the birth of Mickey’s Toontown.

Initially, Disney’s creative minds toyed with various concepts, including the idea of crafting a 100-Acre Woods or a land inspired by the Muppets. However, the turning point came when they considered the success of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” This film’s popularity and the desire to capitalize on contemporary trends set the stage for Toontown’s creation.

From Concept to Reality: The Birth of Toontown

In 1993, Mickey’s Toontown opened its gates at Disneyland, marking the first time in Disney Park history where guests could experience a fully realized, three-dimensional world of animation. This new land was not just a collection of attractions but a living, breathing community where Disney characters “lived,” worked, and played.

Building Challenges: Innovative Solutions

The design of Mickey’s Toontown broke new ground in theme park aesthetics. Imagineers were tasked with bringing the two-dimensional world of cartoons into a three-dimensional space. This led to the creation of over 2000 custom-built props and structures that embodied the ‘squash and stretch’ principle of animation, giving Toontown its distinctiveness.

And then there was also the challenge of hiding the Team Disney Anaheim building, which bore a striking resemblance to a giant hotdog. The Imagineers had to think creatively, using balloon tests and imaginative landscaping to seamlessly integrate Toontown into the larger park.

Key Attractions: Bringing Animation to Life

Mickey’s Toontown featured several groundbreaking attractions. “Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin,” inspired by the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” became a staple of Toontown, offering an innovative ride experience. Gadget’s Go-Coaster, though initially conceived as a Rescue Rangers-themed ride, became a hit with younger visitors, proving that innovative design could create memorable experiences for all ages.

Another crown jewel of Toontown is Mickey’s House, a walkthrough attraction that allowed guests to explore the home of Mickey Mouse himself. This attraction was more than just a house; it was a carefully crafted piece of Disney lore. The house was designed in the American Craftsman style, reflecting the era when Mickey would have theoretically purchased his first home in Hollywood. The attention to detail was meticulous, with over 2000 hand-crafted, custom-built props, ensuring that every corner of the house was brimming with character and charm. Interestingly, the design of Mickey’s House was inspired by a real home in Wichita Falls, making it a unique blend of real-world inspiration and Disney magic.

Mickey’s House also showcased Disney’s commitment to creating interactive and engaging experiences. Guests could make themselves at home, sitting in Mickey’s chair, listening to the radio, and exploring the many mementos and references to Mickey’s animated adventures throughout the years. This approach to attraction design – where storytelling and interactivity merged seamlessly – was a defining characteristic of ToonTown’s success.

Executive Decisions: Shaping ToonTown’s Unique Attractions

The development of Mickey’s Toontown wasn’t just about creative imagination; it was significantly influenced by strategic decisions from Disney executives. One notable input came from Jeffrey Katzenberg, who suggested incorporating a Rescue Rangers-themed ride. This idea was a reflection of the broader Disney strategy to integrate popular contemporary characters and themes into the park, ensuring that the attractions remained relevant and engaging for visitors.

In addition to Katzenberg’s influence, Frank Wells, the then-President of The Walt Disney Company, played a key role in the strategic launch of Toontown’s attractions. His decision to delay the opening of “Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin” until a year after Toontown’s debut was a calculated move. It was designed to maintain public interest in the park by offering new experiences over time, thereby giving guests more reasons to return to Disneyland.

These executive decisions highlight the careful planning and foresight that went into making Toontown a dynamic and continuously appealing part of Disneyland. By integrating current trends and strategically planning the rollout of attractions, Disney executives ensured that Toontown would not only capture the hearts of visitors upon its opening but would continue to draw them back for new experiences in the years to follow.

Global Influence: Toontown’s Worldwide Appeal

The concept of Mickey’s Toontown resonated so strongly that it was replicated at Tokyo Disneyland and influenced elements in Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. Each park’s version of Toontown maintained the core essence of the original while adapting to its cultural and logistical environment.

Evolution and Reimagining: Toontown Today

As we approach the present day, Mickey’s Toontown has recently undergone a significant reimagining to welcome “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway” in 2023. This refurbishment aimed to enhance the land’s interactivity and appeal to a new generation of Disney fans, all while retaining the charm that has made ToonTown a beloved destination for nearly three decades.

Dive Deeper into ToonTown’s Story

Want to know more about Mickey’s Toontown and hear some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories, then check out the latest episode of Disney Unpacked on Patreon @JimHillMedia. In this episode, the main Imagineer who worked on the Toontown project shares lots of interesting stories and details that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s full of great information and fun facts, so be sure to give it a listen!

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading


Unpacking the History of the Pixar Place Hotel



Pixar Place Hotel, the newly unveiled 15-story tower at the Disneyland Resort, has been making waves in the Disney community. With its unique Pixar-themed design, it promises to be a favorite among visitors.

However, before we delve into this exciting addition to the Disneyland Resort, let’s take a look at the fascinating history of this remarkable hotel.

The Emergence of the Disneyland Hotel

To truly appreciate the story of the Pixar Place Hotel, we must turn back the clock to the early days of Disneyland. While Walt Disney had the visionary ideas and funding to create the iconic theme park, he faced a challenge when it came to providing accommodations for the park’s visitors. This is where his friend Jack Wrather enters the picture.

Jack Wrather, a fellow pioneer in the television industry, stepped in to assist Walt Disney in realizing his dream. Thanks to the success of the “Lassie” TV show produced by Wrather’s company, he had the financial means to build a hotel right across from Disneyland.

The result was the Disneyland Hotel, which opened its doors in October 1955. Interestingly, the early incarnation of this hotel had more of a motel feel than a hotel, with two-story buildings reminiscent of the roadside motels popular during the 1950s. The initial Disneyland Hotel consisted of modest structures that catered to visitors looking for affordable lodging close to the park. While the rooms were basic, it marked the beginning of something extraordinary.

The Evolution: From Emerald of Anaheim to Paradise Pier

As Disneyland’s popularity continued to soar, so did the demand for expansion and improved accommodations. In 1962, the addition of an 11-story tower transformed the Disneyland Hotel, marking a significant transition from a motel to a full-fledged hotel.

The addition of the 11-story tower elevated the Disneyland Hotel into a more prominent presence on the Anaheim skyline. At the time, it was the tallest structure in all of Orange County. The hotel’s prime location across from Disneyland made it an ideal choice for visitors. With the introduction of the monorail linking the park and the hotel, accessibility became even more convenient. Unique features like the Japanese-themed reflecting pools added to the hotel’s charm, reflecting a cultural influence that extended beyond Disney’s borders.

Japanese Tourism and Its Impact

During the 1960s and 1970s, Disneyland was attracting visitors from all corners of the world, including Japan. A significant number of Japanese tourists flocked to Anaheim to experience Walt Disney’s creation. To cater to this growing market, it wasn’t just the Disneyland Hotel that aimed to capture the attention of Japanese tourists. The Japanese Village in Buena Park, inspired by a similar attraction in Nara, Japan, was another significant spot.

These attractions sought to provide a taste of Japanese culture and hospitality, showcasing elements like tea ceremonies and beautiful ponds with rare carp and black swans. However, the Japanese Village closed its doors in 1975, likely due to the highly competitive nature of the Southern California tourist market.

The Emergence of the Emerald of Anaheim

With the surge in Japanese tourism, an opportunity arose—the construction of the Emerald of Anaheim, later known as the Disneyland Pacific Hotel. In May 1984, this 15-story hotel opened its doors.

What made the Emerald unique was its ownership. It was built not by The Walt Disney Company or the Oriental Land Company (which operated Tokyo Disneyland) but by the Tokyu Group. This group of Japanese businessmen already had a pair of hotels in Hawaii and saw potential in Anaheim’s proximity to Disneyland. Thus, they decided to embark on this new venture, specifically designed to cater to Japanese tourists looking to experience Southern California.

Financial Challenges and a Changing Landscape

The late 1980s brought about two significant financial crises in Japan—the crash of the NIKKEI stock market and the collapse of the Japanese real estate market. These crises had far-reaching effects, causing Japanese tourists to postpone or cancel their trips to the United States. As a result, reservations at the Emerald of Anaheim dwindled.

To adapt to these challenging times, the Tokyu Group merged the Emerald brand with its Pacific hotel chain, attempting to weather the storm. However, the financial turmoil took its toll on the Emerald, and changes were imminent.

The Transition to the Disneyland Pacific Hotel

In 1995, The Walt Disney Company took a significant step by purchasing the hotel formerly known as the Emerald of Anaheim for $35 million. This acquisition marked a change in the hotel’s fortunes. With Disney now in control, the hotel underwent a name change, becoming the Disneyland Pacific Hotel.

Transformation to Paradise Pier

The next phase of transformation occurred when Disney decided to rebrand the hotel as Paradise Pier Hotel. This decision aligned with Disney’s broader vision for the Disneyland Resort.

While the structural changes were limited, the hotel underwent a significant cosmetic makeover. Its exterior was painted to complement the color scheme of Paradise Pier, and wave-shaped crenellations adorned the rooftop, creating an illusion of seaside charm. This transformation was Disney’s attempt to seamlessly integrate the hotel into the Paradise Pier theme of Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Looking Beyond Paradise Pier: The Shift to Pixar Place

In 2018, Disneyland Resort rebranded Paradise Pier as Pixar Pier, a thematic area dedicated to celebrating the beloved characters and stories from Pixar Animation Studios. As a part of this transition, it became evident that the hotel formally known as the Disneyland Pacific Hotel could no longer maintain its Paradise Pier theme.

With Pixar Pier in full swing and two successful Pixar-themed hotels (Toy Story Hotels in Shanghai Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland), Disney decided to embark on a new venture—a hotel that would celebrate the vast world of Pixar. The result is Pixar Place Hotel, a 15-story tower that embraces the characters and stories from multiple Pixar movies and shorts. This fully Pixar-themed hotel is a first of its kind in the United States.

The Future of Pixar Place and Disneyland Resort

As we look ahead to the future, the Disneyland Resort continues to evolve. The recent news of a proposed $1.9 billion expansion as part of the Disneyland Forward project indicates that the area surrounding Pixar Place is expected to see further changes. Disneyland’s rich history and innovative spirit continue to shape its destiny.

In conclusion, the history of the Pixar Place Hotel is a testament to the ever-changing landscape of Disneyland Resort. From its humble beginnings as the Disneyland Hotel to its transformation into the fully Pixar-themed Pixar Place Hotel, this establishment has undergone several iterations. As Disneyland Resort continues to grow and adapt, we can only imagine what exciting developments lie ahead for this iconic destination.

If you want to hear more stories about the History of the Pixar Place hotel, check our special edition of Disney Unpacked over on YouTube.

Stay tuned for more updates and developments as we continue to explore the fascinating world of Disney, one story at a time.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading


From Birthday Wishes to Toontown Dreams: How Toontown Came to Be



Mickey's Birthday Land

In the latest release of Episode 4 of Disney Unpacked, Len and I return, joined as always by Disney Imagineering legend, Jim Shull. This two-part episode covers all things Mickey’s Birthday Land and how it ultimately led to the inspiration behind Disneyland’s fan-favorite land, “Toontown”. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. It all starts in the early days at Disneyland.

Early Challenges in Meeting Mickey

Picture this: it’s the late 1970s and early 1980s, and you’re at Disneyland. You want to meet the one and only Mickey Mouse, but there’s no clear way to make it happen. You rely on Character Guides, those daily printed sheets that point you in Mickey’s general direction. But let’s be honest, it was like finding a needle in a haystack. Sometimes, you got lucky; other times, not so much.

Mickey’s Birthdayland: A Birthday Wish that Came True

Fast forward to the late 1980s. Disney World faced a big challenge. The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park was under construction, with the company’s marketing machine in full swing, hyping up the opening of Walt Disney World’s third theme park, MGM Studios, in the Spring of 1989. This extensive marketing meant that many people were opting to postpone their family’s next trip to Walt Disney World until the following year. Walt Disney World needed something compelling to motivate guests to visit Florida in 1988, the year before Disney MGM Studios opened.

Enter stage left, Mickey’s Birthdayland. For the first time ever, an entire land was dedicated to a single character – and not just any character, but the mouse who started it all. Meeting Mickey was no longer a game of chance; it was practically guaranteed.

The Birth of Birthdayland: Creative Brilliance Meets Practicality

In this episode, we dissect the birth of Mickey’s Birthdayland, an initiative that went beyond celebrating a birthday. It was a calculated move, driven by guest feedback and a need to address issues dating back to 1971. Imagineers faced the monumental task of designing an experience that honored Mickey while efficiently managing the crowds. This required the perfect blend of creative flair and logistical prowess – a hallmark of Disney’s approach to theme park design.

Evolution: From Birthdayland to Toontown

The success of Mickey’s Birthdayland was a real game-changer, setting the stage for the birth of Toontown – an entire land that elevated character-centric areas to monumental new heights. Toontown wasn’t merely a spot to meet characters; it was an immersive experience that brought Disney animation to life. In the episode, we explore its innovative designs, playful architecture, and how every nook and cranny tells a story.

Impact on Disney Parks and Guests

Mickey’s Birthdayland and Toontown didn’t just reshape the physical landscape of Disney parks; they transformed the very essence of the guest experience. These lands introduced groundbreaking ways for visitors to connect with their beloved characters, making their Disney vacations even more unforgettable.

Beyond Attractions: A Cultural Influence

But the influence of these lands goes beyond mere attractions. Our episode delves into how Mickey’s Birthdayland and Toontown left an indelible mark on Disney’s culture, reflecting the company’s relentless dedication to innovation and guest satisfaction. It’s a journey into how a single idea can grow into a cherished cornerstone of the Disney Park experience.

Interested in learning about Jim Shull’s original idea for a Winnie the Pooh ride? Here’s concept art of the attraction proposed for the original Toontown in Disneyland. More on [Disney Unpacked].

Unwrapping the Full Story of Mickey’s Birthdayland

Our two-part episode of Disney Unpacked is available for your viewing pleasure on our Patreon page. And for those seeking a quicker Disney fix, we’ve got a condensed version waiting for you on our YouTube channel. Thank you for being a part of our Disney Unpacked community. Stay tuned for more episodes as we continue to “Unpack” the fascinating world of Disney, one story at a time.

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading